Archive for February, 2008

Johnny Guitar: a genuine strong woman and a wanna-be

February 22, 2008

Right now I’m watching an old Western from 1954, Johnny Guitar, starring Joan Crawford.

Joan Crawford often played tough career women. She portrayed career women as they ought to be, as they were in an era when the majority of women weren’t brainwashed or forced by financial necessity into doing jobs they don’t want to do and, in most cases, aren’t very good at. Before the 60’s, aside from widows or young women who hadn’t yet found husbands, about the only women in the workplace were women who genuinely wanted to be there – in reality, a tiny percentage of women. In addition, because at that time a woman couldn’t sue employers who found her incompetent for “sexual discrimination”, a woman who had a job above the bottom rung was clearly that rare thing, a woman with ability outside the feminine realm.

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” Crawford says in the movie.

Another character in this movie is called Emma Small. She spends the entire movie haranguing the men in the town to hang anyone who annoyed her, with particular attention to one known as the Dancin’ Kid. “She’s in love with the kid,” Crawford tells the title character.

“Last night she was doing a good job of trying to hang him,” Johnny Guitar answers.

“He makes her feel like a woman. That scares her,” Crawford explains.

This is a prescient portrayal of modern woman. The very idea of feeling like, well, a woman terrifies such women so much that they will, if they can, kill the men who make them feel that way.